TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the “American Taliban”
This is the the memoir of the Justice Department legal ethics advisor, Jesselyn Radack, who blew the whistle on government misconduct in the case of the so-called “American Taliban,” John Walker Lindh–America’s first terrorism prosecution after 9/11.
About the Author
Jesselyn Radack is currently the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Previously, she served on the DC Bar Legal Ethics Committee and worked at the Justice Department for seven years, first as a trial attorney and later as a legal ethics advisor.
“The Justice Department forced me out of my job” she writes, “placed me under criminal investigation, got me fired from my next job in the private sector, reported me to the state bars in which I’m licensed as an attorney, and put me on the ‘no fly list.’”
Her offense? She believed, erroneously as it turned out, that the Department would not want to use illegally obtained evidence in its prosecution of John Walker Lindh, an American convert to Islam. He had been imprisoned by Afghan warlords in November 2001 soon after the U.S.-led NATO invasion of the country after 9/11.
Lindh, then 20, was a California-born convert to Islam. He had travelled to Yemen on a spiritual quest in 2000, and went to Afghanistan in June 2001 to join the Taliban army at a time when the Taliban government, a United States ally in the 1980s, was still receiving United States aid. Lindh survived a harsh POW camp in which more than three quarters of his 400 fellow Taliban POWs died in chaotic conditions along with an American interrogator.
Radack advised against further federal interrogation of Lindh without a lawyer present because his parents had retained counsel. Later, she blew the whistle when she learned that the department destroyed evidence of her advice, and then withheld the evidence from a Virginia federal court, where Lindh faced charges of murder and treason in a high-profile prosecution helping inflame the public in the earliest stages of the war.
Radack’s gripping tale describes a culture clash at the Justice Department between due process advocates and conviction-hungry zealots.